Migration policy in Kenya: How Refugees became terrorists

Kenya has been the largest refugee camp in the world for 25 years. Now it is to be closed. The Somali refugees were declared terrorists.

Refugees from Somalia await registration in Dadaab, Kenya Foto: ap

„There must be an end to shelter refugees,“ Kenya's government announced in May 2016. A quarter of a century is the world's largest refugee camp. It had once been punched by UN relief organizations from the barren deserts. Under the Somali name „Dadaab“, the tent town, which is not listed on any map, has acquired sad fame. Photos of children starved to the bone in the wilderness went around the world. In 1992, the camp was built in the north-east of Kenya along the border with Somalia for some 30,000 people who escaped to the neighboring country before the outbreak.

Over the decades, Dadaab has grown to become the world's largest refugee camp. About half a million people lived there under wretched conditions at weddings, when war, drought and famine prevailed in Somalia in 2011 and 2012. About 35,000 voluntarily returned to their homeland in the past years, some 16,000 have been expelled to third countries, most of them to the USA, to Great Britain or Sweden. Around 40,000 Kenyan passports were received.

14,000 non-Somali refugees were transferred to another camp in the north-western region of Turkana. There, the second-largest camp, Kakuma, near the border to southern Sudan currently provides protection for 186,000 refugees, most of South Sudanese. Also Kakuma should be sealed according to plans of the government. But then, in July 2016, war broke out again in Southern Sudan, thousands of South Sudanese are saved daily across the border.

Kenya had to keep the camp. It is now being further expanded.In November 2016, according to UNHCR figures, about 275,000 refugees were living in the five Dadaab settlements, almost all of Somali. The UN estimates that the final, voluntary return of all refugees could not take place until 2032. But Kenya's government does not go fast enough. In May 2016, the Interior Ministry announced on the basis of a decision by the National Security Council that the camp would be closed by the end of November 2016. There would be no new arrivals registered there. On the contrary, the Somali are to be brought back to their homeland via the border some 100 kilometers from Dadaab.

Shortly thereafter, according to UNHCR figures, some 17,000 Somali refugees packed their belongings. There were about 5,000 families transported by UNHCR in buses or by plane to their homeland. Four zones have been defined as safe, including Somalia's capital Mogadishu and the port city of Kismayo. 150 dollars and food rations for six months receive return volunteers per person as a starting package from UNHCR.

Three quarters of the returnees had decided to go to Kismayo, even though half said they were not from there. But the UNHCR and other NGOs have invested in a displaced camp. The overwhelming majority stated in a UNHCR survey that they would regard the region as safe and to be received there by family members. The survey found that most of the returnees were unemployed or students and they promised more employment opportunities in their homeland. Kenya does not offer them any future. Over 10,000 gave reasons for the questionnaire, they feared insecurity and deportation.

(Un-) voluntary return

As early as 2013, Kenya's and Somalia's governments had agreed in a trilateral agreement with the UNHCR on the closure of camps in Kenya. The deadline for a voluntary return was set at the end of November 2016. Somalia and Kenya's governments wanted to hold on to this date and increased the pressure accordingly. The UNHCR, on the other hand, insists on the international principle of voluntary return and remains up to the year 2032 in its calculation.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud visited Dadaab as the first Somali president in June 2016. He promised his landlords: „We do not want you to return without your accommodation, education and health care.“ Whoever should pay for it, he said nothing. The UN refugee agency UNHCR did not receive a third of the estimated $ 150 million for Somali refugee aid in 2016.

The inclusion of so many returnees in a short time is a herculean task for a country that is almost completely destroyed after over 20 years of war, Somalia's government spokesman Daud Awais admitted. But Somalia's federal transitional government needs the Somali population at home. An estimated eight million were once before the beginning of the war, more than half are said to live in exile, according to Weltbank. At the end of 2016 elections are held, in which the Klanchefs elect a new government. The return of the refugees would contribute to the democratization and legitimacy of the new transitional government, and thus to the stabilization of the country, and the possibility could be thought of by the electoral participation of the whole population, „Keep in mind that your return is a sign of the revival of peace In Somalia and that you can make a difference for your country when you return.“

Kenya's interior minister, Joseph Nkaissery welcomed Somalia's president in Dadaab, stressing that Kenya would help with the return. Keep to the date of closure. After that, Mohamud met his colleague Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. The beginning of a good neighborhood relationship? The two countries which have been at war on each other since independence at the beginning of the 1960s have never been as unanimous as they are now in the refugee question.

The reason for this is mutual interest in the international community: money and security. Kenya wants to get rid of the refugees because of the terror threat and demands more money not to close the camps immediately. Somalia's government wants its people back and hopes to finally get all the money that the international community is pumping to Kenya so far. Together they put pressure on the Western donors.

Battlefield in the fight against terror

In the order to close Dadaab finally, the Ministry of Interior mentions the threat to national security as well as environmental disturbances as reasons. It is the most powerful ministry, directly under the presidency, and thus the prolonged arm of President Kenyatta's power.

Somalia's Islamist terrorist Al-Shabaab has committed numerous attacks in Kenya over the past few years. In 2013, they killed 71 people in the capital city of Nairobi in the luxury shopping center Westgate, where Kenya's middle class and foreigners spend their weekends. In 2014, they attacked tourist resorts along the ocean coast in Lamu. The tourism sector, one of the most important economic sectors in Kenya, broke out. In 2015, a massacre took place in the eastern provincial capital of Garissa, not far from Dadaab, in the university, where 148 students were killed. They can all be read as retaliation campaigns of the Shabaab, which avenged the invasion of Kenyan troops in Somalia.

The invasion took place shortly after the abduction of two Spanish nurses from Dadaab in 2012 working for MSF. The operation ended in disaster and provoked revenge. The militia kept pushing forward to Kenya. Even in Dadaab she put explosives and rammed the barracks of the Kenyan security forces with bombs. The UN agencies had to upgrade their homes with meter-high shatter-proof concrete walls. Since then, NGO employees have been moving through the camp with only a military force.

To date, the Kenyan army has deployed more than 3,000 soldiers in Somalia, as part of the African Union Peace Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, financed by the EU as a whole. At the beginning of 2016 the EU had announced to reduce the funds. Kenya threatened with the trigger. Shortly thereafter, the EU granted additional funds.

Powerless police

Kenya's prosecutor's office had identified telephone contacts of the assassins in the refugee camps after the Westgate attack. Since then, Dadaab has been accused as a breed of terror. Anti-terrorist units stormed the tent town, arrested thousands of suspects, took them to Nairobi, and brought them to justice there within 24 hours.Kenya's police force has only limited control over the camps. They are considered a law-free space with their own laws. In this, the Shabaab has more say than Kenya's police. This is so corrupt that it is predicted by security experts a failure in the fight against terror. For 2017 elections are held in Kenya, the potential for violence increases due to internal-ethnic conflicts. The closure of Dadaab is considered a preventive measure to prevent further riots.

International human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) are criticizing that Somalia is not secure enough, and most returnees will end up in displaced camps in their homeland. Many of the returnees interviewed by HRW had decided to return only because they feared that Kenya's authorities would force refugees across the border. This had already happened after the Westgate attacks, when thousands of Somali were forcibly deported. Most of them prefer to take money and rations with them. This does not correspond to the definition of „voluntariness“ and violates international law, says Victor Nyamori of Amnesty International in Kenya. There are more „push factors“, especially the fear of violent deportation, than „pull factors“ like a better life in the home.

Kenya's human rights organizations went to court: The government's decision to close down Dadaab would violate international human rights, according to the prosecution. HRW and Amnesty had interviewed families who had returned to Somalia, where they had not found any security or shelter as described. They then sought shelter again in Dadaab. HRW criticizes Kenya's government to refuse to allow these families to register again – and thus the food rations.

NGOs complain that another government action is unconstitutional: in a statement of May 2016, the Minister of the Interior had dissolved the refugee affairs section under him. It was created in 2006 in the course of the refugee law adopted at the time to implement the rights of refugees. The original Refugee and Asylum Act of 1993 had never mentioned the Geneva Convention on the Worldwide Protection of Refugees.

The complaint by the human rights organizations is formally directed against the government's approach, says Andrew Maina of Kenya's Consortium for Refugees (RCK), which supports the petition. The Minister of the Interior can not simply change regulations by law and dissolve authorities, even if they are under him, so the lawyer and chief of the RCK research department. Even before the end of the closure period in November, the ruling should be final. But at the first hearing, the judge did not appear.

„Maina is particularly concerned about the draft of a new refugee law, which is currently being debated in Parliament, because this is“ backwards „in terms of rights and protection, according to Maina. To date, the refugee agency has not fulfilled its duty to actually register the refugees. The issue of a refugee passport, through which they are internationally protected, has so far been handled by UNHCR. Kenya's refugee department in the Ministry of the Interior did not have an overview of how many people live in the camps. This is to change now – also due to the danger of terror

General condemnation against refugees

Somali refugees have been granted asylum as soon as they are registered by UNHCR in Dadaab. This regulation was also repealed on the instructions of the Minister of the Interior. In future, all applicants will be examined individually. To this end, a committee is to be set up to compare the personal details of asylum seekers with intelligence databases in order to avoid the protection of terrorists. This commission is to be subordinated to the Ministry of the Interior, which is also under the supervision of the intelligence service and anti-terrorist units of the police. Together, these departments are to remove terrorists from asylum seekers.

This is also important in the event of a possible deportation. Since the government did not register the refugees so far, it could not deport non-recognized asylum seekers. Even if the UNHCR denied the status of anyone, there was no instance to refer to that person of the country. This is also to become possible with the new law more quickly.

There is also a default on relief funds „The funds are often spent for those refugees fleeing to the West,“ complained the Kenyan interior minister. The UNHCR budget for Somalis and South Sudanese refugees in 2016 has enormous supply gaps. Not even half of the food and money needed had been donated by the international community. In December 2016, the food rations must be reduced by half. Kenya can not close these gaps, and is now afraid to be left alone with the refugee problem. „Not a single Western country“ has so far received so many refugees, complains Kenya's government.

Support is now provided by Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Nairobi in June 2016 and criticized the EU and the US for developing countries to bear the burden of the refugees and the accompanying terrorism alone. Turkey has always been very generous in Dadaab. The Dadaab district, with the largest mosque financed by Turkey, is the name of the refugees „Istanbul“.

Temporary eternity

The international community is critical of the possible closure of Dadaab. US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his „deep concern“ and warned of forced repatriations. The UN is pushing to be „flexible“ in the deadline of the camp closure, and asked the Western donors to increase the budget for Somali refugees by 115 million to 485 million dollars. All refugee camps in Kenya will be operated exclusively by international donors. Refugees are not allowed to move freely in the country according to the law, but must live exclusively in camps. Unlike in Uganda, where refugees are assigned a piece of land to cultivate corn and beans and to feed themselves in the long term, no „permanent“ dwelling can be established under the law. Even after 25 years, they still live under tarpaulins.

Thus, all refugees are automatically dependent on relief supplies from the international community: from food, to health care, school education to housing. For the refugees a miserable situation, for donors an expensive undertaking. Kenya is thus clear: the camps are only temporary, and integration into the Kenyan society remains impossible.

It is not easy for Somali in Kenya to acquire citizenship. Since the establishment of the borders to colonial times, a Somali minority lives in Kenya, most of them in the northeast province along the Somali border with the county capital Garissa and the camp Dadaab as the largest conurbation and economic factor. After independence from the British colonialists, the decision was made to attribute the province of Somalia. The local Somali-speaking population was opposed to the independence government in Nairobi. She refused the defection. Since then there have always been revolts, which have been violently crushed. Massacres of the Somali minority were documented. Until 1992, that is until the founding of Dadaabs, there was an exception in the province. The collective suspicion of terror against the Somali refugees can also be explained against this background.

Kenya and the world

Nairobi has become an attraction for migrant workers from all over Eastern and Central Africa. In the course of the integration into the East African Union (EAC) and its agreement on the free movement of goods and persons, also with regard to workers and services, more and more well-trained Ugandans, Rwandans or Burundians in Nairobi are looking for jobs, And services. For Western employees of international NGOs, it will be more difficult to get a work permit in Kenya. The government wants to give well-paid jobs to their own countrymen. Europeans and Americans are systematically denied work permits.

Even though Kenya is now a middle-income country, the development in the periphery remains unstable, corruption is enormous. The country remains dependent on development aid. This is, however, increasingly reduced, the extreme corruption is detrimental to Western donors. ODA funds can no longer be claimed because of the categorization as middle-sized countries.

Kenya is de facto unimportant to the EU in terms of immigration protection: just 480 illegal immigrants from Kenya arrived in the EU in 2015. Of these 130 were already rejected at the external border, 310 the asylum application was refused, 60 granted. Kenya is considered a safe country of origin – except for gays and lesbians. Fears, tens of thousands of Somalis would be on the way to Europe in the course of the closure of Dadaab, are unfounded. The refugee spokesman of Dadaab, Abdullahi Ali Aden, states that the consideration of many young men fails due to the lack of money. A trip to Europe would only be possible by boat life, but due to the lack of freedom of movement in Kenya, the numerous road blocks and the investment of more than 10,000 dollars for a boat trip through the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea, Refugees in Dadaab prohibitive. To Uganda, many want to enjoy more liberties and leisure opportunities there – but not to Europe.

Accordingly, Kenya has received little funding from the EU Treasury Fund for Africa at the EU-Africa Migration Summit in 2015 in Malta's capital Valletta. Within the framework of the support of pastoralist peoples in the border region between South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, the EU will invest 28 million euros in agricultural projects and food security. In addition, 12 million euros. These are to be invested in improved economic opportunities for young people living in underdeveloped regions along the coast to Somalia or the north along the border with South Sudan. Above all, vocational schools should be established.

Low support for the most necessary

The European Commission has increased the budget of the Action Plan for so-called mixed migratory flows in the Horn of Africa to six million by 2015. The countries, including Kenya, are to be supported to expand their capacities to deal with migratory movements. The share for Kenya is marginal.

Kenya is a rather negligible partner country of the EU in the Khartoum process. Under the heading „Better Migration Management“, the EU will implement 45 million euro projects to better regulate migration in nine countries in the Horn of Africa, including Kenya.

In Dadaab, the EU has so far supported the NGOs active there and the UNHCR with funds. In the past eight years, the EU aid agency ECHO has received EUR 1.5 million a year for water and sanitation projects. The Federal Foreign Office has also financed water supply and education projects in Dadaab.

The German Association for Technical Cooperation provides assistance to South Sudanese refugees and receiving communities in Kenya through measures for food security, better medical care. Strengthened conflict resolution mechanisms are equally aimed at the refugees and the local population in the border region to southern Sudan, ie in and around the Kakuma camp. All projects in Dadaab have already been completed

The Federal Government is the second-most important partner of Kenya, according to the USA. Development Minister Gerd Mueller visited Dadaab in March 2016: „60 million refugees around the world are facing huge development challenges for many developing countries,“ he said. „90 percent have sought shelter in developing countries. In a joint effort, the international community has to give people on the ground a new perspective.“

Upgrade in billions

After the Westgate attack Kenya has upgraded. The budget deficit is worth 2.6 billion dollars in 2016/2017, 1.2 billion of which goes to the intelligence service and 1.2 billion to the Ministry of the Interior, which is home to police and anti-terrorist specialists – a gigantic budget for an African country. The upgrade is visible: surveillance cameras are everywhere in Nairobi, heavily armed security forces are stationed in anti-terrorist units, even in supermarkets or banks. The international airport in Nairobi was equipped with surveillance cameras, as well as the container port in the coastal town of Mombasa. Each departure hall of the large airport in Nairobi is equipped with full-body scanners.

Kenya's border posts were equipped with computers, fingerprint scanners and facial recognition systems. In recent years, an Israeli company has been printing biometric passports for Kenyans and building the databases. Biometric identity cards were also issued. There were controversies in the award of the contract, the Presidential Office had purportedly decided which companies would be awarded the contract. A British security company with a daughter in Kenya was given the order to print the passports. Nadra, an agency of the Pakistani Ministry of Interior, is developing the software. From 2017, the member states of the East African Union (EAC) want to introduce common passports.

As a result of increased security technologies, airlines have recently been able to take back direct flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu. The electronic visa procedure now also gives Somali entry to Kenya. Each visa application is synchronized with the secret service database. Direct flights to the USA are also expected to be possible again in 2017. The state carrier KenyaAirways had to take enormous losses because of the security risks and was close to the bankruptcy. Slowly, Kenya's tourism sector is recovering, the most important economic activity and foreign exchange factor. He had broken in the course of the Westgate attacks and the raids in the coastal town of Lamu. The confidence of Western safari tourists in the security agencies is slowly returning. Only in 2016, the tourist numbers rose again.

A wall of Israel

„It was worth it,“ Kenya's vice president William Ruto emphasized when he announced the decision to build a wall in Somalia in 2015. Over 700 kilometers the border section is long, right through the desert and the Shabaab area. Concrete walls, border systems, surveillance cameras and patrol vehicles are required.

German companies have also been interested in this major contract. In 2015, the German International Chamber of Commerce organized a „market journey“ in the area of civil safety technology to Kenya. Meeting with the Ministry of Defense and anti-terrorist units were on the agenda. Germany's leading armaments and security companies such as Rheinmetall and Siemens were present.Ultimately, the Israeli company Magal Security was awarded the contract for the construction of the wall as well as the security of the airport and port. Israel had been a close partner since the Westgate attacks. The shopping center belongs to an Israeli investor. At the entrance gates with security scanners, Israeli security guards are now posted in civilian clothes.

Israel's border installations to Palestine, Egypt and Jordan are a prototype of modern high-tech fences with ground sensors, thermal imaging cameras, as well as satellite and drone monitoring from the air. Kenya's ambitious plans fail, however: construction work, protected by the army, had to be dealt with due to Shabaab attacks. As overpriced, the effort is always, since the terrarium has long been inside Kenya bases. George Morara, deputy director of Kenya's Human Rights Commission recently criticized the construction of the wall as „summit of senselessness“.

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